Google Plus

What is it?

Google+ is already Facebook's main competitor and is quickly growing in popularity. It's the number one social site for new teen-users. Google+ has features and a layout that's very different from more the established social sites.

How does it work?

First you have to create a Google profile, the information given here will be what shows up in your Google+ account. Accounts are easily customized to display only what the user wishes to share. You can then select and add your contacts. The simplest way to explain Google+ is through its features:

Circles

- a creative way to set up privacy settings where you place different people in certain circles then share specific information with each group.

Hangouts

- lets specific people or entire circles know that you're free to chat-face to face or through messaging. With Hangouts, Google+ users can engage in group discussions or meetings in real-time.

Instant upload

- allows pictures and videos to be shared directly from your phone to your Google+ account in a way similar to Instagram - avoiding the lengthy upload process.

Sparks

- a user tells Google+ what he or she is interested in, such as gardening, fashion, music etc. and the feature then offers articles or videos that suit that interest.

Communities

- groups formed around particular interests. Public communities link you in to Google+ communities based on your choice of topics. Private communities are usually more for people the user knows in real life.

The Stream

- the Google+ equivalent of a Facebook homepage. For creating and reading status updates. Public updates can be seen by anyone who has "enCircled" you.

Huddle

- allows you to enter group chat via Google+ on your phone, and is mostly used to make plans with large groups.

Events

- synced with your Google calendar and is like Facebook event pages.

Why is Googleplus useful?

Google+ has incorporated most of the top features from sites like Twitter, Skype, Instagram and Facebook into one application. It's a great way to keep in contact with people, to meet people with similar interests and to share information.

What do you need to keep in mind about your children and Googleplus?

13 years-and-over age restrictions apply and the many options to customize privacy suggests greater security for teen users.

Google+ has a setting that automatically reminds teens about who is able to see their post when posting in public or extended circles.

There are also age-appropriate privacy default settings for teenagers.

Google+ also encourages the use of their 'features for users' which allow users to report abuse, block people, and remove negative comments from their posts. Still, teens will need to use the same caution they do with sharing on other social networks, remembering that anything you put on the Internet has the potential to stay there forever.

Want to know more?

The interactive tutorial offered by Google covers all the basics.

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